Lithuania's would-be foreign minister Linas Linkevičius wishes for reset in relations with neighbours

Candidate to head Lithuania's Foreign Ministry, Ambassador to Belarus Linas Linkevičius, says that Lithuania will benefit from resetting its relations with neighbors, emphasizing that no revolutionary changes will take place in foreign policy.


Linkevičius, Lithuania's former defense minister and former envoy to NATO, told BNS that continuity was crucial in foreign and security policy, at the same time noting that government reshuffle always facilitated efforts to seek positive changes in relations with other countries.


"Certainly, when there's a new administration, we can always expect a certain reset. Of course, that's the hope everyone has in the good sense of the word. As we have a reserve in our relations with neighbours, to put it mildly, we could always benefit from a certain reset. I mean all of our neighbours," Linkevičius said on Monday.


In his words, Lithuania's communication with neighbours should be built on a balance of democratic values and pragmatic interests.


"I would highlight the Nordic countries as a region where we have substantial ambitions, hopes, and expectations. I should also mention Poland, Russia, and Belarus. Neighbourhood is always very important. We should follow the democratic values, but on the other hand, take note of the pragmatic and economic interests of our country. This should be balanced," said the diplomat.


Linkevičius said the United States should remain an extremely important partner, adding that it was hard to "overestimate the partnership."


"The United States is an extremely important partner for Lithuania and the rest of Europe in economic cooperation and security, especially in NATO. It is hard to overestimate it. Since regaining its independence, Lithuania has been appreciating highly the US contribution to the reinforcement of our country's independence and sovereignty," Linkevičius said.


Linkevičius, 51, said he would seek a broad political agreement on foreign policy matters.


"Please be reminded that the candidate for the prime minister emphasized at the Seimas that there would be no revolutions. Continuity is crucial in areas like foreign policy and security policy. Strategic objectives should remain unchanged – these include our international commitments, membership in the EU and NATO," he added.


"Please don't forget that, according to the Constitution, key foreign policy issues are decided by the president who implements the foreign policy in cooperation with the government. Consequently, coordinated operations of all institutions is very important," Linkevičius told BNS.


He said that Lithuania's presidency over the European Union (EU) in the second half of 2013 would be one of the main challenges of his term. During the six months, Lithuania should hold about 3,000 meetings in Brussels and Luxembourg in addition to about 180 presidency events in Lithuania.


"This is a huge challenge we have never faced before. This may be the most important task," the candidate noted.


In his words, close cooperation with EU majors, like Germany and France, would be crucial in deciding EU matters.


Born in Vilnius in 1961, Linkevičius started his political career in independent Lithuania with his election to parliament as member of the Lithuanian Democratic Labour Party in 1992. He was a member of the party, which was the successor of the Lithuanian Communist Party, until 1996. Linkevičius is now a member of the Social Democratic Party which he joined in 2004.


Linkevičius was Lithuania's defense minister twice in 1993-1996 and 2000-2004. During his second tenure, the minister was in charge of Lithuania's NATO integration and was the first Lithuanian defense minister to attend a meeting of NATO colleagues in Brussels.


He was Lithuania's ambassador to NATO twice, in 1997-2000 and 2005-2001, although he held the second tenure as a representative of a NATO member-state.


He returned to the Foreign Ministry as ambassador-at-large in the fall of 2011 and serves as public adviser to Prime Minister Andrius Kubilius. Earlier this year, Linkevičius was appointed as ambassador to Belarus.